I preface this by again saying I’m not a Chaucerian scholar and I have not read Jones’s book nor any of the critiques of it, but I am an expert (or at least credentialed) in medieval English literature. Note the Kate Sampsell, the blogger, is not a medievalist. Her PhD is in Depression-era history.
While I agree with the general point of Sampsell’s post that SL linked to above—that Jones’s book is neither entirely rejected nor embraced whole-heartedly—I do have some problems with what the blogger says about Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale.
Sampsell concludes that the tale is not very good, but that’s an unfair assessment. Yes, the modern reader who comes into the tale cold will likely find it dull and excruciatingly long. But if you read the tale with knowledge of the source material (Boccaccio) and an eye for how Chaucer alters it, especially by introducing philosophical elements such as Boethian ideas, into the text, it becomes fascinating. It also works as an example of the type of tale the character of the knight might tell and as a template for the ideal medieval tale (which Chaucer will alter and play with in the following tales). He does address many of the same philosophical ideas more adroitly in Troilus and Criseyde. Dating Chaucer’s works is something of a fool’s errand, but if that work is later, the difference in quality may be due in part to his being a more mature poet.
It’s also generally accepted that The Knight’s Tale is an earlier work (like the Second Nun’s Tale and possibly Melibee) that Chaucer later included in the Canterbury Tales. The first two are cited as stand-alone works in the Legend of Good Women and all three had lives circulating independently from the rest of the Canterbury Tales.
Sampsell also indicates the alleged failings of the tale are deliberate, and one point of evidence is that it is the first of the tales. Chaucer would not but a bad tale first. But it’s first for other reasons. The Knight, as the pilgrim with the highest status goes first, and others are supposed to follow in descending order of social status. Of course, Chaucer proceeds to disrupt that order almost immediately, with the miller coming next. There is a drawing of lots to see who goes first, which the knight wins. This can be interpreted in three ways: 1) social order is divinely ordained, therefore the lots follow the divine pattern; 2) the host has rigged the game in an attempt to suck up to the knight; 3) who is on top of the social order is a matter of chance. Chaucer is a skilled enough writer to be aware of all three possibilities and leave the answer ambiguous. Also, the structural template of the Knight’s Tale will be referred to in succeeding ones.
I disagree with the notion that Jones puts forward that the Knight’s Tale is intended as satire, but from what I have read so far, Jones is not coming from out of left field. His work is grounded in earlier scholarship, and he does say some interesting things, and any scholarly discussion of the topic should address his ideas.